PR, Films and Fantasies

On celebrity culture, from an academic perspective :)

Posted on: May 5, 2010

2 more texts on today’s list: Joshua Gamson (1994) ‘The Celebrity Text’ in Claims to Fame and Su Holmes (2006) ‘Understanding Celebrity Culture’ in Framing Celebrity: New Directions in Celebrity Culture

According to the first chapter, there were a few things that led to the rise and rise of celebrities and with them of what we call today celebrity culture. Stardom suddenly became a business, celebrities merchandise and fans the perfect markets.

First of all, with the apparition of TV, the gigantic film studios started to loose popularity and large amounts of money so they needed to count on something else in order to keep their popularity. Stars in 1950 started to become proprietors of their own image and even separate the on and off screen personalities which were previously mixed by the fcat that they were proprieties of film studios.

On the other hand, after the WW2 PR started to be institutionalised with publicity becoming more “scientific” in targeting specific audiences. Also, the press was focused on the people, especially “the above the average, the important, the charismatic, the singular”. So, obviously celebrities and publicists started to work together. (this many times irritates the journalists as every single appearance seems to be directed and supervised closely by the big bad press agent).

However, with stars looking down on the regular mortals, people have become more and more curious about what lies behind the scenes. Some say that the main ingredients to reach the top are sincerity, talent, be able to create butterflies in your viewer’s stomachs and… a very good manager”. Don’t know about the others, but the last is absolutely crucial!

Although we now have access to the behind the scene material and to the fabrication process and we view stardom with irony and cynicism, we still are somehow mesmerized by it. Even if the term “celebrity” has become more and more derogatory, adulation, identification and emulation have to be the key motifs in the study of celebrity culture.

In Sue Holmes’ study, 3 ways of looking at celebrities are underlined:

– a symptom of cultural shift to the momentary, visual and sensational

– a “natural”, magical quality that people posess

– in an academic way, as the product of a number of cultural and economical process.

Celebrity today is something specific to (post)modernism as it is mostly an egocentric reaction of the alienated individual of the modern day. This is why, “in a world where face to face intimacy has disappeared, fandom involves an illusion of intimacy that tends to compensate for such loneliness” . The relationship fan-star-celebrity is one of the most intimate and far reaching forms of sociability.

“However, fame, just like power, could never be evenly distributed…if everyone were famous, then no one would be famous”


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